Do HVAC UV Light Purifiers Really Work?

Many technologies are available to help combat indoor bacteria and improve the general quality of air in a home. UV light systems are improvements integrated into HVAC purifying devices for enhanced performance. However, are HVAC UV light purifiers as good as they say?

Installing a UV light purifier in your HVAC system makes it more effective for cleaning indoor air. Although, these systems are only suitable for removing living microorganisms in the air. UV light purifiers do not affect inanimate micro-particles like pet dander and pollen.

Not all home settings require incorporating an ultraviolet purifier system into the room’s atmosphere. However, you need to know what pollutant particles dominate your environment before deciding that a UV purifier is needed. Keep reading to learn more about the various UV light purifiers available, their functions and modus operandi.

Which Is Better: UV Light or Air Purifier?

It’s common to assume that UV light purifiers are the same as regular home purifiers. However, that’s not exactly the case.  Although in the category of purifying systems, UV light systems aren’t the same as typical electronic or ionization air sanitizer.

To compare both, you need to understand how they work.

Air purifiers are designed to sanitize the air inhaled in homes using HVAC. While a typical air filter utilizes a fiber mesh to catch micro-particles, air purifiers pull these particles from the air. 

Air purifiers are of two common types: ionization purifying systems and electronic air cleaner. They clean the air by charging airborne pollutants with ions and pulling them into the purifying device. The contaminants remain trapped inside so the homeowner can easily clean them off later on.

With their level of effectiveness, standard home air purifiers still have an overpowering obstacle. They’re inefficient in shielding your atmosphere from certain airflow contaminants, specifically mildew and mold. This is where UV air sanitizing systems have the upper hand!

The UV air purifier, also known as ultraviolet germicidal lights, is a bunch of radiation lamps. These lamps release low-intensity ultraviolet radiation to kill harmful pathogens exposed to them over time.

The radiation emitted is dangerous to the cells of living organisms and impedes their cellular activities. It eventually destroys them, making them unviable and sterile.

The major difference between the two compared factors is that the former is more effective for non-living particulate matters. Whereas UV light purifiers targets explicitly and destroy living microbes in the air.

So, in my opinion, it’s not a matter of which option is better but which is required in your specific environment. 

If your home is infested with mold or mildew outbreak, then a UV purifier would be the appropriate integration. The regular air purifier is in order if the challenge is removing other inanimate impurities from your indoor atmosphere. Most of these non-living organisms like pet dander can cause allergic reactions.

Additionally, there are other ways to keep your room free from allergens. Some of them include:

  • Adequate home ventilation
  • Constant air filter replacement
  • Sealing detected air leaks
  • Wiping your air vents regularly
  • Keeping your coils dirt-free

Do HVAC UV Light Purifiers Really Work?

HVAC UV light purifiers are also referred to as Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) technology. These types of purifiers are action-specific, trapping microorganism air pollutants majorly. Their target airborne pollutants include viruses, bacteria, and molds. 

Picture lining your laundry under the sun to get dried and destroy any encountered germs in the process. Now, that’s basically how UV light purifiers operate.

The ultraviolet light produced from the sun and ultraviolet germicidal irradiation is the same. Except that, with UV light purifiers, there’s an Increased intensity of ultraviolet light than in the sun.

The radiation from a UV purifier neutralizes the nucleic acid in airborne microorganisms, destroying their DNA as well. If they don’t die off, the effect of the radiation leaves them impotent and so unable to spawn.

You should know that light isn’t effective for micro-particles like pet dander, pollen, or dust. This is because the radiation has no impact on non-living organisms, so it cannot destroy them. In addition, non-living micro contaminants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and cooking smoke or fumes aren’t influenced.

From the mid-1930s, this technique has been integrated into medical facilities like hospitals. Practitioners use it to control contagious diseases like tuberculosis and measles.

A study conducted in the 20s showed that UV light is powerful enough to destroy water and airborne pathogens.

UV light system of air purification is recognized for its effectiveness in combating some disease pathogens. This includes pathogens in flu (influenza virus), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and common cold (rhinovirus). In addition, this technique also works great for certain infectious bacteria like streptococcus variants and staphylococcus aureus.

Due to its multi-action benefits, you may find UV light purifiers often installed in other settings asides from hospitals. For instance, food processing facilities and water treatment plants employ this technique to protect against contaminations.

That said, all ultraviolet germicidal irradiation systems don’t operate the same way. There’s more to purifying your indoor air than merely fixing a random UV purifier inside your HVAC.

Certain conditions must be met for any microorganism to be destroyed or neutralized. First, the said pathogen must be exposed to the right type of UV light. Then, it should be exposed long enough for the needed effect to take place.

How efficient a UV purifier system depends on the particular situation and various factors, including:

  • The number of lamps
  • Lamp intensity and wavelength
  • Duct reflective power
  • Lamp placement

Types of UV Light Purifiers Systems Available

Before installing an HVAC UV purifier in your apartment, you should consider the type of system your home requires. Here are the types of systems available:

Coil Sterilization

This type of UV light system is the most popularly used. It’s usually fixed close to an indoor air conditioner evaporator coil. The system emits constant radiation to keep bacteria and molds from breeding on your AC coil. By neutralizing these potentially harmful microbes on the coil, it ensures that your room’s air is safe to breathe in.

Duct Sterilization

This purifier is mainly designed to eliminate the microorganisms in your indoor atmosphere. It’s usually positioned in the HVAC air reversal duct and only functions when the cooling/heating machine is on. 

Besides cleaning the air flowing into it, the air sterilization system also prevents bacteria and viruses from breeding on your HVAC parts. In addition, it protects vulnerable components like the air filter, evaporator coil, drain pan, and most importantly, the air ducts.

On the flip side, the multiple benefits provided by these systems don’t come cheap. UV light purifiers are expensive and require annual servicing to stay functional.

The maintenance routine usually involves changing the costly lamps. If the UV lamps aren’t replaced when due, their power diminishes until they’re no longer effective for destroying germs. It doesn’t matter whether or not they still emit visible light.

Do UV Air Purifiers Work on Viruses?

People believe that UV air purifiers are strong enough to disinfect the air of viruses like Delta variants and COVID-19. These beliefs are primarily influenced by the numerous promotions on different UV light technologies. For example, adverts on systems like UVGI, far-UVC, and far-UV clearly state that they can eliminate up to 99.9% of viruses.

These purifiers employ ultraviolet radiation to eliminate viruses and sanitize or disinfect the atmosphere.

Although efficient in combating multiple harmful living microbes, UV light purifiers’ potency against stubborn viruses like the COVID-19 isn’t proven.

Studies show that to eliminate a virus as strong as the COVID-19, an extreme intensity of UV light is required. Unfortunately, the intensity level proffered is yet to be produced by any UV light systems.

Scientific results show that only about 98% of the virus will be killed even with extreme doses. Unfortunately, this still leaves a viable 2% capable of reproducing and spreading.

Bottom line, UV light air purifiers aren’t strong enough to destroy viruses like COVID-19. Even if it could, the amount of exposure time required for the needed impact will limit its coverage.

Despite its inability to effectively handle the COVID-19 virus, UV light has numerous benefits and uses:

  • UV lamps are compulsory additions in operating rooms to keep the air germs free. They’re also used to sterilize surgical apparatuses in the hospital.
  • Medical doctors use small UV doses to treat dermal problems and related disorders. Doctors also employ this system in the treatment of vitamin D deficiency.
  • UV light is crucial in obtaining forensic evidence from elements like blood, fingerprints, and other fluid types.
  • This purifier system is installed in air purifiers. Exposing certain airborne germs and bacteria neutralizes their effects or completely destroys them for an extended time. This, in turn, sanitizes the air you inhale in your home.
  • Installing UV light purifiers in your HVAC works excellent for mildew, bacteria and mold prevention. However, some of these contaminants charged in your indoor air can be dangerous to people and animals alike. In addition to reducing the quality of your home’s air, they can agitate allergic reactions and symptoms in people.